Retirees want steady income, fear running out of savings: CPPLC
September 7, 2023
New research commissioned by the Canadian Pension Plan Leadership Council (CPPLC) finds that Canadians want steady retirement income — and worry about running out of money in retirement.
We reached out to Alison McKay, who is the Co-Chair of the CPPLC, to ask a few questions about the findings.
The research suggests Canadians prefer plans that offered inflation-protected guaranteed income, and that fear of running out of money is a primary stress driver. While defined benefit (DB) style plans offer this sort of income you can’t run out of, defined contribution (DC) plans and registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) don’t automatically do this. Should there be more awareness of the value of annuities in capital accumulation plans?
The stress many people feel planning for retirement underscores the need to enhance financial literacy among Canadians and raise awareness about their retirement planning options. Increasing costs of living and how to draw down on savings are two major challenges that retirees can better overcome with the right plan and planning. The research shows that promoting education, awareness, and incentives that highlight the value of retirement income options can improve retirement readiness, including options that offer a solution to safeguard against longevity risks if their workplace plan does not include such features.
It was encouraging to see the stat that a quarter of respondents rate retirement planning as an 8/10 factor when choosing careers. Does this mean that people are (finally) starting to focus on workplace retirement benefits as being as important as salary?
The research indicates that Canadians are considering their personal well-being in addition to traditional career-related factors, like salary, when making their career decisions and choosing employers. Given the potential impact of retirement planning stress on personal health, Canadians may view workplace pension plans as a benefit that serves their financial savings and well-being goals. It is notable that in both surveys, Canadians highly rated plans that provide predictable and monthly income, that is guaranteed to be paid for life, and that has inflation protection.
Is the fear of running out of money in retirement (hence the desire by so many for the lifetime, inflation protected monthly pensions) driven by the lack of independence this might create – such as having to downsize or rent unexpectedly, or depend on friends and family for financial help?
Canadians consistently rated “running out of money once retired” (47 per cent) as their biggest retirement savings stress. The next top concerns were consistently “being dependent on family once retired” (38 per cent) and “being dependent on social programs once retired” (34 per cent). This aligns with your suggestion that a lack of independence may drive some Canadians’ retirement planning stress.
We also see that Canadians express a strong desire for predictable, lifetime guaranteed income that is inflation-adjusted, while also placing priority on maintaining of their standard of living during retirement. However, the report highlights a significant gap in retirement income coverage, with only 29 per cent of Canadians feeling confident about retiring at their desired age and maintaining their desired standard of living.
Making a significant change like unexpectedly needing to move or depend on family can be a stressful situation at any point in a person’s life; it’s more stressful when you’re not earning a wage or salary, as in the case of retirees. The report emphasizes the importance of expanding retirement income coverage in Canada to address the concerns of Canadians and enhance overall retirement preparedness to achieve retirement goals and secure financial well-being during retirement.
The study’s results suggest that people are dipping into their retirement savings due to factors like higher prices, and as well, taking on more debt than usual. Are these the chief reasons that those without workplace pensions aren’t able to save for retirement?
Canadians have lost confidence in retiring on-time and debt-free. While we have seen significant economic volatility in recent years, the low confidence is specifically affecting Canadians without access to a workplace pension. Only one-in-five feel confident in their ability to retire when they want and maintain their standard of living, compared to the one-in-three with access to a workplace pension who lack confidence about reaching the same goals.
The lack of confidence in managing their own retirement savings plans further highlights the need for workplace pension plans that help Canadians save efficiently and automatically. The study also found that Canadians consistently report they are not well informed about sources of retirement income. Expanding retirement income coverage in Canada and investing in financial literacy programs can contribute to improving retirement readiness for Canadians.
What finding surprised you the most from this research?
The survey presented a valuable opportunity to gauge Canadians’ sentiments regarding their finances and retirement plans. While the results are somewhat expected given the economic climate in 2022, a surprising finding is the effects of retirement-related stress on individuals and families.
Something that differentiates the survey from many others is that we specifically asked about stress related to retirement planning, not general financial stress. The study points out that stress, specifically about retirement, permeates various aspects of Canadians’ lives. Notably, the research reveals an increase in retirement-related stress from 2016 to 2022, impacting both Canadians’ personal health and career decisions.
Almost half of those surveyed (47 per cent ) reported that the stress of planning for retirement affects their health, at least moderately. Of that group, 28 per cent said that stress about retirement highly effects their personal health. As 60 per cent of Canadians do not have a workplace pension plan, these findings underscore the significance of addressing retirement planning concerns and the importance of expanding retirement income coverage in Canada.
We thank Alison McKay and CPPLC for taking the time to answer our questions!
If you don’t have a workplace savings program, and are relying on your own investment skills to save for retirement, you may want to take a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Open to any Canadian with RRSP room, SPP is a voluntary defined contribution plan featuring pooled investing at a low cost. You decide how much to contribute, and SPP looks after growing your savings until it’s time to turn them into income. Check out SPP today!
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Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.